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Gemma Connell

Trainee Producer (MIF Creative) at Manchester International Festival

DCMS Jerwood Creative Bursaries - Bursary Blog
At the beginning of the year, Gemma Connell, a Trainee Producer (MIF Creative) at Manchester International Festival, kicked off the Bursary Blog with an account of how she had become part of the DCMS Jerwood Creative Bursaries Scheme. Now at the end of her placement, she reflects on the lessons her first graduate job in the arts has taught her.

Collaboration. That’s what it’s all about.
In the current funding climate, arts organisations are being told to team up with their peers to make joint applications for various pots of money. Some seem to think that collaboration is a chore, but during my time working as Trainee Producer (MIF Creative) at Manchester International Festival, I’ve come to understand that collaboration is the point of this industry.
Music Boxes residenciesWorking on the Music Boxes residency programme (which I aptly named “my baby”) that ran from February until July this year for children aged 6 months to 7 years, I stood alongside some brilliant artists who had been commissioned to work together with local schools and children’s centres to test out and create new musical art.
At the end, to be able to write an evaluation that says we’ve had five year-olds singing on and designing a music video for Indie band Cornershop and that we’ve influenced the delivery of some elements of the curriculum in two schools and the structure and content of the entire creative arts programme in another, is an amazing feat. I’d say that the collaborative element of the project was key in these achievements.
But collaboration isn’t just about two heads being better than one; it’s about giving some people a foot up.
I felt so proud watching That Day We Sang’s choir of Manchester schoolchildren grow up and blossom as young people while they worked with MIF and their fabulous choir master, Anna Flannagan, towards a professional performance of the piece written and directed by comedienne Victoria Wood.
Added to this, I was also involved in MIF Creative’s third commission, Sacred Sites, which saw five local faith communities discussing with MIF who they wanted to see in their building and Vertical Farm which looks to be the beginning of a very green partnership between MIF and the many communities of Wythenshawe. Collaboration all round then. But that’s what MIF Creative is about.
Being the inquisitive workaholic that I am, I then went in search of some non-MIF collaboration of my own, and found it down the road, at Contact Theatre and Manchester Literature Festival. The result of MIF’s collaborative inspiration in me was Flow! earlier this month at the Contact Theatre as part of the festival.
Produced by Contact and Broken Rose Performing Arts, Flow! was a revolutionary open stage event that saw dancers in close conversation with poets. From its roots in the USA, slam poetry has become a cultural phenomenon, touching the hearts and minds of those involved in the hip hop genre, as well as that of modern literature. Over the years, the lines between this form of performance and other arts have begun to blur. Flow! took this a step further, allowing the spoken word to entwine itself with the human body. This event saw a succession of freestyle duets, teaming up poets and dancers to showcase their art forms collaboratively. Each pair locked, popped, spat and rhymed their way through a spontaneous set.

Read Gemma’s first contribution to the Bursary Blog from January 2011 and find out what it is like to work at Contact, where Gemma performed, in a blog by bursary recipient Oliver Sykes.
Photo ©Duncan Elliott for Manchester International Festival

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